Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Islamabad Court Stays Extradition of Man Linked to ISIS; Former Helmand General Arrested

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  • The Islamabad High Court has stayed a previously unreported extradition request from the United States for an American citizen of Pakistani origin apparently wanted on charges related to an Islamic State plot targeting New York City.
  • Lt. Gen. Mohammad Moeen Faqir, the former commander of the 215 Maiwand Army Corps in Helmand, was arrested on corruption charges on Monday; in total, the ministry of defense reports that it has identified at least 140 cases of personnel involved in corruption out of nearly 1,400 personnel dismissed “in recent months”.
  • In a London Times interview, U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson reiterated the need for U.S. assistance and support to the Afghan security forces; the report suggests he will request around 5,000 additional U.S. troops at a NATO conference in May. Afghan security officials announced new operations in Kunduz on Tuesday, and plans for more operations around the country ahead of the anticipated Taliban “spring offensive”.
  • Afghan officials reiterated opposition to Pakistani plans to fence the border between Afghanistan and the FATA.
  • Prime Minister Sharif visited Hyderabad on Monday with pledges of new healthcare and infrastructure initiatives. Speaking to supporters in Lahore, former Pres. Zardari said that the PPP was prepared to “do politics of agitation” against the ruling party.
  • Pakistan is set to resume the repatriation of Afghan refugees next week. Afghan and EU officials met in Brussels on Monday to discuss their repatriation agreement.
  • The American University of Afghanistan is due to reopen Tuesday, nearly six months after an attack that killed at least sixteen people.
  • Pres. Ghani has nominated Nargis Nehan, a former civil society organization head, as the new minister of mining and petroleum.
  • A special polio vaccination drive began in Islamabad on Monday after traces of the polio virus were found in environmental samples; no new cases have been reported in the city since 2008.

Pakistan — Security

  • U.S. Extradition Request: On Monday, Dawn reports that the Islamabad High Court stayed the extradition of an American citizen of Pakistani origin, Talha Haroon, who the United States has sought for extradition in connection to a previously unreported Islamic State plot targeting New York City. Details are limited; Haroon was reported to have been arrested last September, and the extradition process began in January.
  • Counterterrorism Crackdown: A Shikarpur anti-terrorism court sentenced 11 men in connection to an attack on a Shia mosque during Eid last year; one man, Usman Pathan, was sentenced to death, and eleven others were sentenced in absentia.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Elections and Other Political Activity: PTI leaders met on Monday and agreed not to comment further on any delays in the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Panama Papers case, the Express Tribune reports. Prime Minister Sharif visited Hyderabad on Monday, where he announced new healthcare and infrastructure initiatives; the PPP dismissed Sharif’s pledges as “hollow and empty”. Speaking to supporters in Lahore on Monday, former Pres. Zardari said that the party was preparing to end its “reconciliation approach” with the government and “do politics of agitation”; Zardari also announced plans for a rally in Chakri, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s home constituency, at an unspecified future date. The Sindh Assembly, with the backing of MQM-Pakistan legislators, unanimously voted to rename two universities previously named after MQM leader in exile Altaf Hussain. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Visa Controversy: On Monday, the Ministry of Interior directed the National Database and Registration Authority to establish a centralized online database of visas issued to foreigners. The ministry also issued a statement saying that special authorization granted to former ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani had been withdrawn in 2014. [ET] [ET]
  • Tensions with India: Foreign advisor Sartaj Aziz met with a delegation from the Organization of Islamic Countries’ (OIC) Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission on Monday, with whom he raised concerns over Indian human rights violations in Kashmir. Speaking at a conference on maritime security on Monday, National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua expressed concerns over a U.S.-India defense logistics agreement, saying that “India is being propped up as a counter-weight to China through geo-political, geo-economic and geo-military moves”. [The Nation] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Polio Crisis: A special polio vaccination drive began in Islamabad on Monday after traces of the virus were found in environmental samples; the last reported case in the city was found in 2008, and no cases of infection have been cited at this point. [AP]
  • Energy Disputes: In a letter to the prime minister on Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah protested that the approval of 97 new gas connection projects worth a total of Rs 37 billion — of which 77 were located in Punjab — represents a “source of discontent” between the provinces and violates constitutional guarantees that prioritize gas distribution to provinces where well-heads are located. [APP] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Quetta Legal Community Still Suffers from Fallout from Attack Last Summer [ET]
  • Pakistani Man in Germany Convicted of Spying for Iran [AFP]
  • Sindh Rangers Arrest Eight in Karachi Raids [The Nation] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Lahore High Court Reiterates Demand for Response on Hafiz Saeed House Arrest [ET] [The Nation]
  • PEMRA Orders Apology from Talk Show Host Aamir Liaquat [Dawn]
  • Bail Extended for Deputy NAB Chairman [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Supreme Court Demotes 121 Punjab Police Officers, 9 NAB Officials [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • CPEC ‘Center of Excellence’ Inaugurated [Dawn] [The Nation]

Afghanistan — Security

  • U.S. Assistance: In a Sunday London Times interview, U.S. and NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson reiterates that “we cannot afford to walk away from Afghanistan”; the report suggests that Nicholson will request around 5,000 additional U.S. forces at a NATO summit in May. On Tuesday, the Afghan Ministry of Defense reported that they had received 1,370 new Humvees last year, part of a contract for 1,673 vehicles in total.
  • American University Reopens: The American University of Afghanistan is scheduled to reopen on Tuesday for the first time since an attack at the school six months ago.
  • Attacks and Operations: In his testimony before parliament on Monday, National Directorate of Security chief Masoom Stanekzai said that it would be another two weeks before the main perpetrators of the attack on the Kabul military hospital could be identified. In his testimony, Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahid said that the security forces planned to launch a “major counter-terrorism operation” and would increase special forces deployments in Nangahar, Herat, and Kunduz. The start of joint operations in Kunduz was announced on Tuesday, but no further details were released; in Helmand, Ministry of Defense officials claim that 21 Taliban fighters in airstrikes in the Nahr-e-Saraj district on Tuesday. Afghan National Police officials reported the seizure of suicide vests and explosives in Kabul on Tuesday, but did not report any arrests. At least three Afghan soldiers were killed in an overnight Taliban attack on multiple checkposts in the Khakrez district in Kandahar; other sources put the death toll as high as 15. A polio vaccination center in the Bati Kot district in Nangarhar was burnt down on Sunday; no claim of responsibility has been reported. [Reuters] [Khaama Press] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Former Helmand General Arrested on Corruption Charges: On Monday, the Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center announced the arrest of Lt. Gen. Mohammad Moeen Faqir, the former commander of the 215 Maiwand Army Corps in Helmand, charging him with embezzlement and abuse of authority. Faqir, whose predecessor was previously accused of inflating army rolls, was himself replaced in October. Details of the case are minimal; a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense confirmed the arrest and said that 1,394 army personnel had been fired “over the past few months”, including at least 140 charged with corruption or graft. Separately, the ACCJC sentenced former Herat provincial council chairman Kamran Alizai to two years in prison on charges of interfering in the duties of the Herat attorney general’s office, among other charges.[Khaama Press]
  • Tensions with Pakistan: In a statement on Tuesday, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned against Pakistani plans to fence the border with the FATA, saying that “any movement without Kabul’s consent would be impossible and ineffective”. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense called on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups; separately, Chief Executive Abdullah warned that “any kind of political, financial and military support to terrorist groups is posing serious threats to the region and international peace, therefore every country in the region needs to take firm steps against these groups”. In an interview on Monday, Pakistani ambassador to the United States Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry insisted that the Haqqani network was “neither friends nor a proxy of Pakistan”. Several members of parliament, former officials, and civil society members are taking place in a Track II dialogue in Islamabad sponsored by the Center for Research and Security Studies and Kabul-based Women & Peace Studies Organisation. [APP]
  • Refugee Repatriation: EU and Afghan officials met in Brussels on Monday and agreed to establish a Joint Working Group on refugee and migrant repatriation, which will “work together on information awareness raising campaigns, to reframe the discourse, to counter the narrative of people smugglers and traffickers and to direct prospective migrants to official sources of information”. Pakistan and the UN High Commission for Refugees are set to resume the voluntary repatriation process for Afghan refugees on April 3, which was suspended in November due to the onset of winter.
  • New Minister of Mines Nominated: On Monday, Pres. Ghani announced the nomination of Nargis Nehan as minister of mines and petroleum; she previously served as the director of Equality for Peace and Democracy, a Kabul civil society organization.
  • Election Planning: Independent Election Commission member Maazullah Dawlati tells TOLO that the IEC will need $120 million to hold parliamentary and district council elections, acknowledging that donors “have some reservations that the money is spent on holding the elections in transparent manner so that satisfaction of the people of Afghanistan is achieved”.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • It Was a Brutal Killing that Shocked Afghanistan; Now, the Outrage Has Faded [WAPO]
  • Ghani Confers State Medal on Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal [Khaama Press]
  • 50% of Pregnant Afghan Women Lack Access to Basic Health Care [TOLO]
  • Central Statistics Organization Calls for Import Substitution as Trade Deficit Grows [TOLO] [TOLO]

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